Sunday, January 18, 2015

Take the Plunge

The last couple of weeks have been stressful at work, my heart wanting to be home, my head not in the job. I've struggled with keeping the balance and feeling like I'm being the best in both places. It was a hard way to end the year: questioning where I am professionally, feeling completely lost and unfulfilled.

But this is my year of living fearless.

Late one night in October, I took the plunge and submitted my application to grad school. I didn't think about it too much, I just stayed up until 4 in the morning one night filling out applications and intentions and financial aide forms and hit submit. I took my GRE a week later, no studying or preparation involved. I just drove to the test center after work and took the damn test. I emerged 4 hours later feeling like I had just sucked out the contents of my brain with a vacuum. Shawn was completely on board. He's been telling me to apply for years now. I didn't really think that it would happen until I got an email in December saying "Hey. You. Dumbass who has no clue what you're doing. Go register for your classes. You're in". Or something like that.

Everything moved really quickly from that point. Before I even had time to really second guess myself and have my usual neurotic over thinking breakdown, I was a registered graduate student on my way to earning a Master's in Nursing with a concentration in Family Nurse Practitioner. Huh? Books arrived in the mail, assignments were posted, and I spent a ridiculous amount of money at Target on pretty binders and pens and sticky tabs. Because those items are very necessary to higher learning.

I capped off my first week of school with an all day orientation/faculty meet and greet. It was a bit overwhelming and I felt a little out of my league a couple of times throughout the day, sitting in a classroom with incredibly bright, articulate, impressively experienced nurses. But I felt super empowered, too. Energized, motivated, determined. One of the professors commended us for taking this next step. For wanting to be more. For stepping out of our respective comfort zones and willingly going back to being the little fishies in the big grad school pond.

As I drove away that afternoon, mentally exhausted and armed with a massive list of things to do, I felt euphoric, revived, the dark and dreary cloud that had been hanging over me for the last couple of weeks dissipated. This is it, Liv. You're going to the next level. I felt the shift, the switch turned: Beast mode. ON. I don't know how I'm going to make it all work, I'm just going to do it. It's going to take a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and resilience, but I'm going for it. I want more for myself and for my family. I want to do big things, to help people, to have more decision making capabilities, to find things I don't like and make them better. This is me making good on my promise to myself to live a fearless, faithful life. This is me living my dream.







Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fearless and Busy and Everything In Between

I feel like there's a moment, a season, every couple of months or so where I want to be in exactly the place where I can't be. I yearn to trade in my working mom role, the career that I love, and become a stay at home mom. I obsess over it actually. This season typically coincides with the holidays, summer vacation, the obvious occasions when one might long to have more family time, more spontaneity, less work. 

It's happening now, of course, as we wind down from the amazing whirlwind that is Christmas. The slew of New Year's resolution posts on blogs, Facebook, and Instagram don't help, either. The theme of "let's be less busy" seems to have taken over the internet these days as one post after another fills up my various feeds, encouraging me to "stop being so busy". I read a blog written by a stay at home mom yesterday encouraging us all to "stop glorifying the busy", another woman wrote about how so many of us are guilty of humble bragging in disguise, the word "busy" used as a merit badge to show how productive and superhuman awesome we are.

I see their points, I even nod my head in agreement at certain times. But I'm also left feeling extremely frustrated and confused. Not with them but with myself. I feel frustrated that I get so caught up in  my own head every couple of months, losing focus on how blessed I am and wanting a little bit of that grass that appears to be so much greener. I doubt myself and start questioning my path, wondering if I'm one of those people. The kind that glorifies it, humble brags it, wears my busyness as a merit badge. I sat on that one for a little while and really thought about it, called myself to the carpet. What is it that I'm missing that makes me feel so lost every couple of months? Am I trying to obtain something that will never be within my reach? Am I really all that busy, so much so that it calls me to question my journey? And is being busy even a bad thing?

I am a working mom with three little kids and a husband whom I love very much. I am busy, there's no two ways around it. And I don't think that being busy is a bad thing. I think that my perspective on the whole thing is what needs fixing. During this season that I charge through every couple of months, these emotionally challenging times when I find myself wanting to fill a role that I simply can not fill, I have to shift my focus and change my perspective. Being busy is not the problem, it's the reality. Cutting out distractions, however: well, that's a whole other story. Comparing myself to other mothers who live completely different lives, filling my days with activities that don't amount to anything but then wondering why I don't have time for the stuff that matters: those are problems. I need to fix that thinking, I need to stop wasting time longing for a reality that isn't going to happen at this time in my life.

But I also need to reevaluate the time that I DO have and make sure that I'm using it to the fullest. I'm busy, sure, but that doesn't mean that I can't slow down, settle in, and make the moments when I am present count. That's the perspective shift I was talking about, the swift kick in the ass I need every couple of months. I work hard and I am proud of that. There's something really satisfying to me about a long, hard day at work, a busy day. A day that involves me helping people, doing something that is bigger than me, and then coming home and still giving my all to my family. But I don't want to be so busy that I don't have enough room left in my heart for the simple moments of joy that surround me. River waiting for me at the door when I drive up from work, Brees leaving me a hand painted card to thank me for making her favorite breakfast, my heart to heart talks with Isabelle as I rush her from one practice to another. These are my moments, my working mom moments, they are my reality. 

I'm tired of the wanting, the wishing, the guilt and resentment. I'm tired of hating myself for loving to work. My New Year's resolution has nothing to do with being less busy: no resolution is going to change this season that we're in. My New Year's resolution, my word for 2015, is fearless. I'm going to live a fearless life, having a fearless amount of faith, loving fearlessly, taking chances and trying new things in a fearless way. I'm going to be busy as hell but I'm going to take the time to enjoy each and every moment. I'm not going to make excuses and I'm not going to wish for things that I don't have. I'm going to be fearlessly present, opening my heart to others in a fearless way, loving myself and where God has placed me, right here in this moment, with a fearless heart. Because that's where I am, that's who I'm designed to be. And I'm ready to own that, head held high, fist in the air, smile stretched wide, fearless spirit.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Run Liv Run: Make a Plan and Keep It Up

Shawn and I developed a habit in 2014: when we found ourselves coming up with a hundred different reasons as to why we COULDN'T do something, we challenged each other to think of at least one reason why we COULD.  Start at that place, that one reason, and take your first step. It's all downhill from there.

This week, I can think of a hundred different reasons to NOT exercise: it's really cold, I'm on call, the kids are headed back to school and dance and all of the scheduling craziness, I'm tired from the holidays, the list goes on and on.  But, I do have one amazing reason why I SHOULD exercise this week:

For the first time in many, many years, I am NOT starting over at the start of the new year.  I'm not jumping on a diet, I'm not starting a whole new exercise plan, I'm not climbing my way back up to the top and getting myself back into gear.  I'm simply continuing what I started at the beginning of last year.  I'm going to continue eating clean, balanced meals and even try a whole list of new recipes. I'm going to continue running, doing yoga, and lifting weights.  I'm going to sign up for a bunch of races this spring to continue the fun we had in the fall. I'm going to continue striving for balance in my mental, physical, and spiritual well being, taking care of myself and my family by putting in consistent effort to live a healthy and active lifestyle. I'm going to get adequate rest, take time to recover, hydrate, and eat as many fruits and veggies and whole foods as possible.  The cold weather, my busy work schedule, homework and carpool will not keep me from continuing what I've worked so hard to build.  Because I CAN do it.  One step at a time.



For me, as a busy full time working mom and now graduate student (WOOHOO!), the best way to get it done is to have a plan.  One Sunday night, I do a quick inventory of our fridge and pantry and make out my weekly meal plan and grocery list. I try to use what we have first and then work my way out from there. I try to use leftovers to create new meals. I try to keep it simple but delicious enough that I keep my family's taste buds happy and ready for more. My weekly meal plans and exercise routines are very flexible: this list is not set in stone. This is simply a guide to keep us on track and make weeknights less stressful. Because we've been doing this for almost a year now, meal planning moves pretty quickly.  I have lots of go-to recipes that I know will be a hit with everyone and I also make lots of freezer meals to save time when we are busy with the kids. It takes practice but the reward is priceless.


Weekly meal plan:

Breakfast: 
Overnight oats (my fav breakfast because there are SO MANY ways to make them, they never get boring!
Veggie filled scrambled eggs
Smoothies

Dinner:

Monday: Black bean quinoa enchilada casserole (this is the basic recipe. I make my own enchilada sauce using this recipe and I add chicken and go really light on the cheese)

Tuesday: Ground turkey meat tacos served in butter lettuce cups

Wednesday: Taco salads using leftover taco meat, loaded down with tomatoes, avocados, roasted corn, topped with Tessamae's Southwest Ranch dressing

Thursday: Spicy black bean veggie burgers on mushroom "buns" topped with tons of veggies, served with steamed asparagus

Friday: Grilled salmon, roasted red pepper quinoa, broccoli

Saturday: Clean crockpot taco chili

Sunday: Breakfast for dinner, usually gluten free waffles or pancakes topped with fruit

Weekly Workout Plan:

Monday: 3.5 mile easy run, 30 minute inversions practice

Tuesday: Yoga

Wednesday: 30 minute Tabata/HIIT workout, 30 minutes of stretching

Thursday: 3 mile speed run

Friday: Yoga

Saturday: 4 mile tempo run

Sunday: Rest, recover, meditate, family hike or bike ride

What's your plan this week?  Do you have any recipes to share?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Joy Is Boundless

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My word for 2014 was devotion: a year of sinking in a little deeper, taking more time, slowing down, simplifying, becoming more comfortable with myself, falling deeper in love with my family, surrendering my heart and soul to the Lord and His plan for me.  Devotion.

I feel like this year was a giant one for me. I let go of a lot of insecurities and self doubts. I stripped away a lot of excess in my life and spent more time fine tuning the things (and people) that really matter. I fully committed myself and my family to living a healthy and active lifestyle. And I allowed myself the space to mess up, to fail every now and then, to be vulnerable.  I tried new things and really put myself out there.  I worked really hard but took the time to play as well.

This year, I set lots of goals and challenged myself to conquer new frontiers.  I learned how to run again. I cleaned out our kitchen and turned us into a clean eating family. I delved deeper into my yoga practice and made time for weekly meditation. And I lost 20 pounds as a result. I feel strong and proud of where my body has been and how far it has come today. I took that photography class I've been dreaming about for years and didn't even get mad at myself when I got busy and barely had time to use my real camera. I have plenty of time to practice in 2015. I started journaling again, doing lots of mind mapping and dream boarding and soul searching.

As a family, we got out and moved together: exploring, learning, experiencing everything we could. Together. We met new people, took on new traditions and ideas, and became a lot closer as a result. Spiritually, we have grown in ways I have hoped and dreamed of for years now. I devoted a lot of time and attention to my prayer life and experienced a sense of peace and serenity that I never knew existed. My spiritual growth resulted in less stress and anxiety and more thankfulness for the everyday. I am hoping for more and more of this growth in the new year.

Shawn and I fell very short of our goal for a monthly date night but we did go on LOTS of runs together, trading in dinner dates for late night back road adventures. We challenged each other in new ways and I am more in love with him than ever. He's always there for me, cheering me on, pushing me to go further, even when we're mad at each other. He's my person, my constant waiting at the finish line. It feels good to know that, to be able to trust in him, to trust in us.


                                         

This song defined 2014 for me, it was part of our family soundtrack, the background song to so many milestones and memories:

My joy is boundless
My soul knows its worth
In arms stretching wider
Than my heart could ever fall

Your word is final
Your name above all
The cross my reminder
Your love is forever
Cause here I am
Your love has got me up in arms again
And this hope won't let me go

Happy New Year!!  Cheers to new possibilities, fresh starts, putting ourselves out there and getting shit done!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Merry Christmas Indeed

Christmas 2014 was quite possibly my most favorite Christmas ever.  Of course, I say that every year.

After our big family party on Saturday night, we welcomed a slow and quiet Christmas holiday. Or as slow and quiet as things can be around these parts. We got all gussied up and went to Christmas Eve Mass as a family. The candles, the frankincense incense, the children's choir singing "Silent Night": it was all so beautiful and uplifting. We got to church almost an hour early just so that we could sit and pray and listen to the choir. It was important to Shawn and I to spend time in prayer, opening our hearts and allowing the spirit of the season to fill our souls. 

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My brother and his family drove in from Texas on Wednesday and we were so excited to have a Christmas sleepover!  The kids were so excited to all be together, we've missed them dearly since their big move to Texas.  First on our Christmas Eve agenda: cookie baking and decorating!  


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Brees was SUPER annoyed when we asked her to smile for the camera.  "I have baking to do!  No time for pictures!".


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The kids set aside their best cookies for Santa to eat. We also made reindeer food with healthy ingredients safe enough for the many pets and wild animals that roam around our yard at night to eat: rolled oats, granola, raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, and carrots.  The kids sprinkled their reindeer food in front of our house and were thrilled in the morning when they found animal footprints in the rocks by the front porch!! Reindeer prints, of course.


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My brother played our favorite Christmas carols on his guitar while the kids sang along.  This was definitely River's favorite part of the night.


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We opened a few gifts in front of the fire, the kids trading in their church clothes for Christmas jammies.  Belle and Brees exchanged the gifts they bought for each other: gifts they picked out and wrapped by themselves and paid for with their own money. Belle said "Sissy, you know me so well! This was exactly what I wanted!".


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For supper, we had my mom's yummy chicken and sausage gumbo: a long standing Christmas Eve tradition.

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With their bellies full of gumbo and Santa's cookies set out on the fireplace with a couple of hand written notes and a glass of milk, the kids settled down in the living room to read the story of Christ's birth.  We said our bedtime prayers and thanked God for bringing us together on such a special night. Belle, Brees, Daxx, and Trey all camped out in Belle's room with River next door in his crib. Just as we tucked them in and kissed them goodnight, Santa called my phone to let us know that he was in his sleigh and heading to Louisiana soon! I've never seen them so excited!  They couldn't believe that Santa was calling them and that he was really on his way! It was time for these sweet little cousins to get some rest and time for the mamas and daddies and my mama to get to work setting out all the magic. And share a few cookies and kisses under the mistletoe, of course.


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I woke up first, as usual, to get the coffee going, the monkey bread baking, the Christmas dinner started. I heard little feet upstairs begin to stir and gathered all of the grownups to watch them come down the stairs. Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read: keeping it simple and real.  They took their time opening their gifts, hugging us between each one and yelling out "Thank you, Santa!!!".

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The rest of the day was spent in our jammies, feasting on roast with all of the trimmings, playing with new toys, napping in front of the fire, watching movies, and enjoying each other. The greatest gift, to me, was being all together. To be a wife and mom, a daughter, sister, and aunt to these people: it is everything. I am so thankful for this family I get to call my own.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Family Is Where's It's At

Our family was so blessed to be able to host our big annual family Christmas party this past Saturday. Over the last few years, we've all agreed that celebrating with our very big extended family BEFORE the actual holiday works out really nice, leaving the big day more relaxed and quiet and meant for quality time with our little families.  With each passing year, our family just keeps growing and growing, more babies around every corner, my little cousins not so little anymore, girlfriends and boyfriends that will soon become official spouses.  But we still get together despite the growing guest list, knowing how special this time together is and appreciating each other and the gift that is family.

I think I counted 50 heads in our house that night.  Fifty LOUDLY talking heads full of life and love. The little kids serenaded us with Christmas carols, our cousin Daniel impressing us with his skills on the piano.  The women all chimed in for a heartfelt round of "Silent Night" and I was overcome with emotion as I took it all in.  The food was amazing, as usual, and I ate my weight in meatballs and honey baked ham and spinach dip.  The adults played a rowdy game of "Dirty Santa" and Shawn and I were stoked when we ended up with a hand painted lamp for the kitchen. There was a fire in the outdoor fireplace, mistletoe for stealing kisses, and girl talk around the dining room table. But the best part, by far, was the amazing fireworks show that Shawn and my uncles and cousins put together in our front yard.  We all gathered on the front porch and stood under the big country sky and watched in amazement as they lit up the night with color and sound.  It was magical.

We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking and catching up, laughing until we cried. And when I finally made it to bed, exhausted and deliriously happy, it occurred to me that this is Christmas as an adult.  Not looking forward to surprises and gifts and receiving, but instead enjoying the people, the gift giving, the time spent together. These are the moments that make me feel like the richest girl in the world.


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Monday, December 22, 2014

Keeping It Simple: Advent

I had the perfect family Advent all planned out: a beautiful calendar with scriptures, reflections, and activities, a devotional for Shawn and I to read together daily and map out our thoughts and hopes and dreams, and a calendar full of dates with friends and every single Christmas activity I could find within a 50 mile radius.

But December 1st came and went and I instantly knew that this year was just not going to be like that. This has been our year of devotion, our year of settling in, slowing down, and simplifying in every way.  This year will not be the year of the Pinterest worthy Advent.  This year will be the year of taking each day one step at a time, less activities and more prayers, family over hustle and bustle. We'll keep that pretty Advent calendar up just for inspiration but no stressing ourselves out over what day we're on or where we're supposed to be.  This year, we're going to spend more time focusing on the whole point of this magical time instead of getting overwhelmed by the energy that surrounds it.

This year, for Advent, we've been to the lighting of the Christmas tree in our little town's courthouse square.  We've been to the holiday light safari at the zoo with our friends, made gingerbread cookies, watched fireworks on a blanket by the bayou.  And we've prayed.  And spent a lot of time together as a family, reading about the birth of Jesus and what this holiday really means to us: Jesus is the light of the world and He was born so that we may live.  Our kids have enjoyed the simple nights in the kitchen, the fun trips out to see all of the twinkly lights, and the time that we are spending together all in the name of Christmas.  To me, this is the greatest gift that I could have received this holiday season: the gift of dying to myself and my unrealistic parental expectations, the gift of loving where I am right here and right now, of saying no to more and embracing the here and now.

This is our way of preparing Him room.


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